Are you familiar with the religion Hoodoo? Not the West African religion Voodoo or Vodoun, but Hoodoo. Hoodoo first emerged in the southeastern region of the United States in the 1800′s when people from West African tribes of the Congo, Sierra Leone, and present-day Ghana were brought over to the country as slaves and combined each of their religious traditions to create Hoodoo.
“The cultural profile of those three regions is very different and the religions are different,” scholar Katrina Hazzard-Donald says. “But after 1807, the African slaves are united under a common material culture and Hoodoo begins to emerge out of these three distinct African religious traditions.” Hoodoo beliefs are purely naturalistic and practices used naturally obtained supplies like herbs, minerals, and even animals. One example of the religion’s practices was “chewing the root.” It was a ritual done to release the sap of a plant to conjure spiritual power. The tradition of herbal healing known as Hoodoo is about more than using hex-breaking oils and candles to ward off bad vibes, according to a new book by Hazzard-Donald.
Sadly, Hoodoo lost its religious status after the 1880′s, and Hoodoo practices began to be commercially marketed, modified, and fabricated. “A tremendous amount of exploitation has taken place among merchants and Hoodoo emerges as a commercial enterprise right around World War I among people who were not believers or practitioners even though they were willing to sell it,” Hazzard-Donald explains. “What many people start to see is something that I call commercialized or tourist Hoodoo. It has been presented as the ‘real authentic’ Hoodoo.”